Paul Samasumo - Vatican City
Away from the world’s major headlines, Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado is undergoing a humanitarian crisis that has created widespread insecurity and suffering in the region. The ongoing Jihadist insurgency has cost many lives and displaced thousands of ordinary villagers. All this follows years of insecurity and armed civil strife that pitted the ruling party, Frelimo against the opposition party of Renamo. A year ago, Pope Francis visited Mozambique and encouraged both Renamo and Frelimo to forge a legacy of lasting peace. Unfortunately, the acrimony in the wake of disputed October 2019 General elections has led to some setbacks in the peace process. Fortunately, there has been no return to an all-out war. The escalating insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province is an additional problem.
Two weeks ago, militants, in Cabo Delgado seized the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia.
Pope Francis: Cabo Delgado is suffering
After the Sunday Angelus Prayer, in St Peter’ Square, Pope Francis referred to the suffering in Cabo Delgado. The Pope briefly recalled his visit to Mozambique a year ago. He then said many people in Cabo Delgado were suffering “due to international terrorism.”
Pastoral letter: Hope, Peace, and Reconciliation
For their part, the Bishops of Mozambique, over the weekend, issued a Pastoral Letter addressed to all the faithful and people of goodwill. The Pastoral Letter coincides with the one-year milestone of Pope Francis’ visit to Mozambique which took place from 4 to 6 September 2019. The theme of that visit was “Hope, Peace, and Reconciliation.”
Many of the themes that underpinned Pope Francis’ visit, to Mozambique, a year ago, find an echo in the new Pastoral Letter signed by the Archbishop of Nampula and Vice President of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique, Archbishop Inácio Saúre, I.M.C.
Mozambicans grateful to the Pope for his closeness
The Pastoral Letter speaks of the joy and gratitude that the Mozambican Church still attaches to the historic visit. The Mozambican prelates recall that the Pope’s solidarity visit to their country came barely months after the country was hit by two devastating Cyclones in a space of weeks. Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall at Mozambique’s port of Beira on 14 March 2019. Six weeks later, on 25 April, Cyclone Kenneth also made landfall near the city of Pemba. Both Cyclones caused massive flash flooding, hundreds of deaths, and the enormous destruction of property and crops.
The Mozambican Bishops’ Pastoral Letter said the country is grateful for the closeness and solidarity of Pope Francis towards all Mozambicans, especially those who are traumatised and affected by the insecurity in the north and central regions of the country.
Take to heart Pope Francis’ encouragement for peace
Entitled “Hope, Peace and Reconciliation,” the Pastoral Letter thanks Pope Francis for his concern regarding the current situation in Cabo Delgado Province. They acknowledge the Holy Father’s 12 April Easter Sunday message during the Urbi et Orbi blessing, when he prayed for Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado. Similarly, they commend the Pope for last week’s telephone call to the Bishop of Pemba, Luiz Fernando Lisboa.
The Mozambican Bishops urge their compatriots to take to heart Pope Francis’ message calling for peace and reconciliation in the country.
“Hope, Peace and Reconciliation was the motto of the Apostolic Visit. More than ever before, these words must serve as a true programme of action, leading us to accept challenges and applying the words to the current context. Pope Francis left us with stimulating words of encouragement, and guidance for the prevailing national situation which is marked above all by the absence of an effective peace,” reads the Letter in part.
Demobilisation, Disarmament, and the Reintegration
The Bishops further invite political actors to embrace collaboration. “It is necessary to end the violence and, with transparency, to carry out the process of Demobilisation, Disarmament and the Reintegration of the (military) men of Renamo.” The Bishops continue to say that Mozambique needs genuine Decentralisation of power, sincere dialogue and the participation of all political and civil actors. “
No one can rest until we have peace
As a Church, the Bishops promise to spare no effort in encouraging and supporting these processes of promoting a culture of peace. The peace process as Pope Francis reminded Mozambicans, demands continued and renewed commitment to its realisation, say the Bishops. No one can rest until Mozambique has achieved authentic and effective peace, the prelates emphasise.